The (Ex)Secretary’s Speech: Jobs Plans, Unemployment And Illusions of the Future.

Thus capital presupposes wage labour; wage labour presupposes capital. They reciprocally condition the existence of each other; they reciprocally bring forth each other.(Marx 1978, 33)

 To my friends in the union movement I say this: Every worker needs a successful company. To the business community I say this: No company is successful without an engaged, energised and motivated workforce.(Howes 2014)


This post was meant to be short and to the point – but it has really run away from me. The point of it is to use Paul Howes’ speech as part of a broader critique of the common-sense of the Left in Australia: that some kind of ‘capitalism with a human face’ is possible and that a set of policy options, specifically a jobs plan, could achieve this goal(Žižek 2000, 63). I want to show that Howes’ speech is the truth of such a claim and such a claim is both impossible and undesirable. Simply put such arguments fail to take into account the profound global crisis of capitalism. Thus the future such proponents imagine is a mystification. There is little chance of normality ahead of us, if by normality we mean the relative growth, prosperity and stability of capitalism in Australia post-WWII in both its social democratic and neoliberal forms.

 This critique is aimed not only at the mandarins of the ALP nor the cretins of the centre-left commentariat but also at activists and the Far Left who continue to parrot such positions even if they add a radical gloss. There are no greater fools than those supposed anti-capitalists who believe that tailing social democratic illusions is a step on a torturous road to proletarian enlightenment. The truth is such a road never reaches its destination: it’s an endless illusion.

In discussions with comrades the use of various social democratic demands and slogans is often justified by an argument that goes this is where ‘the workers’ are at and we want to connect with ‘the workers’. However to my knowledge there is never any research that actually establishes this is what workers want, no mass investigation, no discussion groups, no militant inquiry: no one ever asks them their thoughts. Rather such an understanding is an assumption built on an ideological image of the working class that exists only in the minds of certain socialists. On the flip side these comrades who are workers themselves sublimate their own rebellious desires whilst hunting this ideological figment.

I also want to be crystal clear. My argument isn’t that we shouldn’t resist sackings, restructuring or privatisations or that we shouldn’t attempt to increase our wages and reduce our work. Far from it. My argument is against the idea that we can organise politically, focused on the state, to coordinate the generation of more employment as part of a return to some form of social democracy. Such a goal is neither possible nor desirable. Read more at … The (Ex)Secretary’s Speech: Jobs Plans, Unemployment And Illusions of the Future..

2 thoughts on “The (Ex)Secretary’s Speech: Jobs Plans, Unemployment And Illusions of the Future.

  1. OMG What a breath of fresh air. Finally someone puts their finger on how Capital continues to exploit labour and why labour continues, except at the margins, to allow it. The link ‘The (Ex)Secretary’s Speech: Jobs Plans, Unemployment And Illusions of the Future’ is a post on ‘the word from struggle Street’ blog by withsobersenses.
    of April 28, 2014.

    If you are interested in the question “What is wage slavery, why do we put up with it and how do we get out of it’ Then this article is definitely for you.

    I think the post scores a bulls eye where it says;

    “the trade unionist error of only seeing workers reduced to what capital wants them to be: mere embodiments of wage labour who fit into the machinery of capital.”

    Except that I might have replaced the words ‘what capital wants’ with the words “what capital and labourers themselves want”.

    Seems to me both Capital and Labour have at their heart exactly the same human craving. Capital wants to maximise the return on its wealth, (cash, property, political power – the means of production if you prefer) and similarly labour wants to maximise the return on its predominant wealth – its limited working hours (the hours of its life available to do work for the owners of capital. This is suggested throughout the post and near the end a radical proposal is made about breaking this nexus.

    “We are dependent on wages because we lack – thus to address this we need to confront how we can decommodify what we need to live full lives.”

    Capitalism needs labour to want to commodity their lives to keep the system going. The advertising industry exists predominately to facilitate this process.

    Consequently, as the post suggests it seems the most radically effective way of undermining the paradigm would be to decide to not coperate with Capital by refusing to participate in this commidification process.

    This of course is genuinely radical stuff at a personal level and likely to be strongly resisted by both sellers (capital) and buyers (labour) alike but as the post goes on to say;

    ‘It is impossible to imagine even small forms of resistance without have (sic) to think in some way about complete social transformation’

    I would suggest that this implies a complete transformation at a personal political level in how we see our relationships to all life on the planet. In essence (dare I use the word) a spiritual renewal.

    For those who doubt the possibility of indebted labour (or capital) to free themselves from this consumption engendered slavery, the latter part of the post addresses this issue.

    A great article absolutely worth the read. Just the type of stuff WBT is perfect for!! Well done.

    [ Steve is a member of WBT’s administration collective. We are always on the look out for more. The rewards are many but the toils are few, any takers? ]

Please comment down below